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Full text of "Our great war and the great war of the ancient Greeks"



OUR 

GREAT WAR, 

AND THE 

GREAT WAR 

OF THE 

ANCIENT ; 



PILBERT MURRAY 




Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

by 

'^^TATE 0T7' THE LA^"" 
MA^Y SINCLAIR 



OUR GREAT WAR 

AND THE 

GREAT WAR OF THE 

ANCIENT GREEKS 



OUR GREAT WAR 

AND THE 

GREAT WAR OF THE 
ANCIENT GREEKS 



BY 
GILBERT MURRAY, LL.D., D.Litt., F.B.A. 

Regius Professor of Greek in the University 
of Oxford 



W 



New York 

THOMAS SELTZER 
1920 




1089065 



Copyright, 1920, by 
Thomas Seltzer, Inc. 



Printed in the United States of America 
All rights reserved 



The Creighton Lecture, igi8 



OUR GREAT WAR AND THE 

GREAT WAR OF THE 

ANCIENT GREEKS 

Being a study of the criticisms passed on the 
War Party at Athens by their contemporaries 



Our Great War and the 

Great War of the Ancient 

Greeks 



There is no commoner cause of his- 
torical mis judgment than the tend- 
ency to read the events of the past too 
exclusively in the light of the present, 
and so twist the cold and unconscious 
record into the burning service of con- 
troversial politics. And yet history is 
inevitably to a great extent a work of 
the imagination. No good historian 
is content merely to repeat the record 



6 Our Great War and the Great 

of the past. He has to understand it, 
to see behind it, to find more in it than 
it actually says. He cannot under- 
stand without the use of his construc- 
tive imagination, and he cannot im- 
agine effectively without the use of 
his experience. I believe it is one of 
the marks of a great historian, such as 
he in whose honour this annual lecture 
was established, such as he who now 
does us the honour of occupying the 
chair,* to see both present and past, 
as it were, with the same unclouded 
eye; to realize the past story as if it 
were now proceeding before him, and 
to envisage the present much in the 
same perspective as it will bear when 
* Dr. Mandell Creighton and Lord Bryce. 



War of the Ancient Greeks 7 

it is as one chapter, or so many pages, 
in the great volume of the past. 

We know in Gibbon's case how 
much the historian of the Roman Em- 
pire learnt from the Captain of the 
Hampshire Grenadiers. And it would 
surely be folly to tell a man who had 
lived through the French or the Rus- 
sian Revolution to forget his own ex- 
perience when he came to treat of simi- 
lar events in history. To do so is to 
fall into that great delusion that 
haunts the hopes of so many savants, 
the delusion of supposing that in these 
matters man can attain truth by some 
sure mechanical process without ever 
committing himself to the fallible en- 
gine of his own personality. 



8 Our Great War and the Great 



II 



Greek History has been, for rea- 
sons not difficult to unravel, constant- 
ly reinterpreted according to the po- 
litical experiences and preferences of 
its writers. Cleon in particular, the 
most vivid figure of the Peloponnes- 
ian War, plays in the history books 
many varied parts. Heeren and Pas- 
sow, writing under the influence of the 
French Revolution, treat him as a 
"bloodthirsty sans-culotte" who estab- 
lished a reign of terror. (Busolt, iii. 
988 ff.) Mitford, a good English 
Tory reeling under the horror of the 
first Reform Bill, took him as a shock- 



War of the Ancient Greeks 9 

ing example of what democracy really 
is and must be. Grote, on the con- 
trary, saw him as a vigorous and 
much-abused Radical, and justified 
his war-policy for the sake of his 
democratic ardour at home. In our 
own day Mr. Grundy and Mr. 
Walker somewhat reinforce the posi- 
tion of Mitford, while Mr. Zimmern, 
following Beloch and Ferrero, sees in 
Cleon little more than the figurehead 
of a great social and economic move- 
ment. For my own part I would fain 
go back to the actual language of 
Thucydides and regard Cleon simply 
as *'the most violent of the citizens, 
and at that time most persuasive to 
the multitude." We need bring in 



10 Our Great War and the Great 

no nicknames of modern parties; that 
phrase tells us essentially what we 
need to know. 

I propose to-day to consider the im- 
pression made on Athenian society by 
that long and tremendous conflict be- 
tween Athens and Sparta which is 
called the Peloponnesian War, using 
the light thrown by our own recent ex- 
perience. That war was in many re- 
spects curiously similar to the present 
war. It was, as far as the Hellenic 
peoples were concerned, a world-war. 
No part of the Greek race was unaf- 
fected. It was the greatest war there 
had ever been. Arising suddenly 
among civilized nations, accustomed 
to comparatively decent and half- 



War of the Ancient Greeks 1 1 

hearted wars, it startled the world by 
its uncompromising ferocity. Again, 
it was a struggle between Sea-power 
and Land-power ; though Athens, like 
ourselves, was far from despicable on 
land, and Sparta, like Germany, had 
a formidable fleet to back its land 
army. It was a struggle between the 
principles of democracy and military 
monarchy; and in consequence 
throughout the Hellenic world there 
was a violent dissidence of sympathy, 
the military and aristocratic parties 
everywhere being pro-Spartan, and 
the democratic parties pro-Athenian. 
From the point of view of military 
geography, again, the democratic sea- 
empire of Athens suffered much from 



12 Our Great War and the Great 

its lack of cohesion and its dependence 
on sea-borne resources, while the mili- 
tary land empire of the Peloponnes- 
ians gained from its compact and cen- 
tral position. It would perhaps be 
fanciful to go further and suggest 
that the Thracian hordes played some- 
thing the same part in the mind of the 
Athenians as the Russians with some 
of us. And, when they failed, alas, 
there was no America to make sure 
that the right side won ! 

Again, in the commonplaces of po- 
litical argument, we find in that part 
of the Peloponnesian War about 
which we have adequate information, 
a division of parties curiously similar 
to our own. There were no pro-Spar- 



War of the A ncient Greeks 1 3 

tans in Athens, just as there are no 
pro-Germans in the proper sense of 
the word with us. There was roughly 
a Peace by Negotiation party, led by 
Nicias, and a Knock-out-Blow party, 
led by Cleon. The latter emphasized 
the delusiveness of an "inconclusive 
Peace" and the impossibility of ever 
trusting the word of a Spartan; the 
former maintained that a war to the 
bitter end would only result in the ex- 
haustion of both sets of combatants 
and the ruin of Greece as a whole. 
And Providence, unusually indulgent, 
vouchsafed to both parties the oppor- 
tunity of proving that they were right. 
After ten years of war Nicias suc- 
ceeded in making a Peace treaty, 



14 Our Great War and the Great 

which, however, the firebrands on both 
sides proceeded at once to violate; 
war broke out again, as the war party 
had always said it would, and after 
continuing altogether twenty-seven 
years left Athens wrecked and Sparta 
bleeding to death, just as the Peace 
party had always prophesied ! 

Of course such parallels must only 
by allowed to amuse our reflections, 
not to distort our judgments. It 
would be easy to note a thousand 
points of difference between the two 
great contests. But I must notice in 
closing one last similarity between the 
atmospheres of the two wars which is 
profoundly pathetic, if not actually 
disquieting. The more the cities of 



War of the Ancient Greeks 15 

Greece were ruined by the havoc of 
war, the more the lives of men and 
women were poisoned by the fear and 
hate and suspicion which it engen- 
dered, the more was Athens haunted 
by shining dreams of the future recon- 
struction of human life. Not only in 
the speculations of philosophers like 
Protagoras and Plato, or town-plan- 
ners like Hippodamus, but in comedy 
after comedy of Aristophanes and his 
compeers — the names are too many to 
mention — we find plans for a new 
life; a great dream-city in which the 
desolate and oppressed come by their 
own again, where rich and poor, man 
and woman, Athenian and Spartan are 
all equal and all at peace, where there 



i6 Our Great War and the Great 

are no false accusers and — sometimes 
— where men have wings. This 
Utopia begins as a world-city full of 
glory and generous hope; it ends, in 
Plato's Laws, as one little hard-living 
asylum of the righteous on a remote 
Cretan hill-top, from which all infec- 
tion of the outer world is rigorously 
excluded, where no religious heretics 
may live, where every man is a spirit- 
ual soldier, and even every woman 
must be ready to "fight for her young, 
as birds do." The great hope had 
dwindled to be very like despair; and 
even in that form it was not fulfilled. 

Ill 

The war broke out in 432 B. C. be- 



War of the A ncient Greeks 1 7 

tween the Athenian Empire, compris- 
ing nearly all the maritime states of 
Greece, on the one hand, and on the 
other the Peloponnesian Alliance led 
by Sparta. The first war lasted till 
421 ; then followed the Peace of Nic- 
ias, interrupted by desultory en- 
croachments and conflicts not amount- 
ing to open war till 418 when the full 
flood recommenced and lasted till the 
destruction of Athens in 404. 

I wish to note first a few of the ob- 
vious results arising from so long and 
serious a war. The most obvious was 
the overcrowding of Athens due to 
the influx of refugees from the dis- 
tricts exposed to invasion. They 
lived, says Thucydides, in stuffy huts 



i8 Our Great War and the Great 

or slept in temples and public build- 
ings and the gates of the city wall, as 
best they could. (Thucydides ii. 52.) 
"You love the people'?" says the 
Sausage-monger in Aristophanes' 
Knights to Cleon, "but here they are 
for seven years living in casks and 
holes and gateways. And much you 
care! You just shut them up and 
milk them." As every one knows, this 
overcrowding resulted in the great 
outbreak of a plague, similar to the 
Black Death, in 430, a point empha- 
sized by Thucydides but not, if I re- 
member rightly, ever mentioned by 
Aristophanes. I suppose there are 
some things which, even to a comic 
genius, are not funny. 



War of the A ncient Greeks 1 9 

There was great scarcity of food, 
of oil for lighting, and of charcoal for 
burning. "No oil left," says a slave 
in the Clouds : "Confound it," answers 
his master; "why did you light that 
drunkard of a lampT' {Clouds 56.) 
"What are you poking the wick for," 
says an Old Man to his son in the 
Wasps, "when oil is so scarce, silly *? 
Any one can see you don't have to pay 
for it I" {Wasps 2^2 f[.) But food 
was dearer still. "Good boy," says 
the same Old Man a little later, "I'll 
buy you something nice. You would 
like some knuckle-bones, I suppose?" 

Boy. I'd sooner have figs, papa. 

Old Man. Figs? I'd see you all 
hanged first. Out of this beggarly pay 



20 Our Great War and the Great 

I have to buy meal and wood and 
some bit of meat or fish for three. 
And you ask for figs I 

And the Boy bursts into tears. 

I think the passage in the Acharti" 
ians where the hero, parodying a 
scene in a tragedy, threatens to mur- 
der a sack of charcoal, and the Chorus 
of charcoal-burners are broken-heart- 
ed at the thought, is perhaps more in- 
telligible to us this winter than it was 
before the war. 

The scarcity of food is dwelt upon 
again and again. It is treated almost 
always as a joke, but it is a joke with 
a grim background. Many places 
suffered far more than Athens. Melos 
had been reduced by famine (Birds 



War of the Ancient Greeks 21 

186.) The much-ravaged Megara, an 
enemy so contemptibly weak and yet, 
for geographical reasons, so madden- 
ingly inconvenient to the Athenians, 
was absolutely starving. Farce comes 
near to the border of tears in the 
scene of the Acharnians where the Me- 
garian comes to sell his children in 
a sack, as pigs, and we hear how the 
fashionable amusement in Megara is 
to have starving-matches round a fire. 
(Acharnians 750-762.) 

In Athens itself prices were high, as 
we saw in the scene from the Wasps. 
Everybody was in debt, like Strepsi- 
ades in the Clouds, like Peithetairos 
and Euelpides in the Birds. The 
King of the Birds, we hear, "had once 



22 Our Great War and the Great 

been a human being, like you and I; 
and owed money, like you and me; 
and was thankful not to pay it, just 
like you and me." (Birds 114 ff.) 
That was one of the reasons why, 
though Athens was certainly "a great 
and prosperous city and open to every 
one to spend money in," the heroes of 
that play determine to seek another 
home. 

But the liveliest description of the 
general lack of food is in the Knights, 
in a scene of which the point has often 
been missed. Cleon is addressing the 
Council, thundering accusations of 
conspiracy and **the hidden hand," 
when the Sausage-monger resolves to 
interrupt him and bursts — quite illeg- 



War of the Ancient Greeks 23 

ally — in with the news that a shoal 
of sprats has come into the Piraeus 
and can be had cheap, extraordinarily 
cheap. The hungry and anxious faces 
suddenly clear. They vote a crown to 
the bringer of good tidings, and pre- 
pare to rush off. Cleon, to regain his 
ascendancy, proposes a vast sacrifice 
of kids, as a thank-offering. The 
Sausage-monger at once doubles the 
number, and proposes a still further 
extravagance of public feasting next 
day if sprats fall to a hundred the 
obol. The councillors accept the pro- 
posal without discussion and stream 
out. Cleon shrieks for them to wait: 
a herald has come from the Spartans 
to propose terms of Peace ! At another 



24 Our Great War and the Great 

time that would have held them. But 
now there are cries of derision. 
"Peace ? Yes, of course. When they 
know that we have cheap fish in. We 
don't want Peace! Let the war rip!" 
Cleon had taught them their lesson 
only too well. {Knights 625-680.) 



IV 



Another effect of the war was the 
absence of men of military age from 
Athens. The place was full of women 
and Gerontes — technically, men over 
sixty. And the young men were be- 
ing killed out. That explains such 
phrases, for example, as the remark 
that Argos was now powerful because 



War of the Ancient Greeks 25 

she had plenty of young men. (Con- 
trast Hdt. vi. 83.) It explains too 
why the plots of three of our eleven 
extant Comedies, and quite a num- 
ber of those only known from frag- 
ments, are based on suppositions of 
what the women might do if they held 
together. In the Lysistrata — the 
name means Dismisser of Armies — the 
heroine, determined on compelling 
both sides to make Peace, organizes a 
general strike of all wives and mist- 
resses, both in Athens and Sparta. 
They seize the Acropolis, and dress 
themselves in their most bewitching 
clothes, but will not say a word to any 
husband or lover till Peace is made. 
And when the authorities are sum- 



26 Our Great War and the Great 

moned to put the revolt down, alas, 
they amount to nothing but a crowd 
of scolding old gentlemen. It is much 
the same in the Ecclesiazusae, or 
Women in Parliament, only there they 
pack the Assembly disguised as men, 
carry a measure transferring the vot- 
ing power from men to women and 
then introduce a socialist Utopia. 
The third woman-play, the Thesmo- 
phoriazusae, turns on literature, not 
on politics. 

The evidence is not sufficient to 
show whether there really was any 
general movement for Peace among 
the women, or yet for Socialism. At 
the present time women probably feel 
the pinch of scarcity and the difficul- 



War of the Ancient Greeks 27 

ties of housekeeping more than men 
do; and possibly they feel the deaths 
of the young men more than the old 
men do. But these are only two fac- 
tors among an enormous number that 
are operating. 

The third material result which 
seems worth specially mentioning 
was the dearth of servants, though this 
was due to a different cause from those 
which produce the same effect among 
us. It was that the slaves, who of 
course had no patriotism towards the 
city of their owners, deserted in vast 
numbers. At a certain moment we 
are told that more than 20,000 had 
escaped from Athens. Life no doubt 
was extra hard, and escape was easy. 



28 Our Great War and the Great 

The master, if he was under sixty, was 
apt to be away on duty; and if you 
once got outside the town into the 
open country, where the enemy was in 
force, there was a good chance of not 
being pursued. 

The slaves thus correspond to what 
is called the "international proletari- 
ate," or would correspond if such a 
class really existed. They were a class 
without rights, without interests, 
without preference for one country or 
one set of masters over another. In 
modern Europe it seems as a rule to 
take an extraordinary amount of pro- 
longed misery before an oppressed 
class loses its national feeling. 



War of the Ancient Greeks 29 



Now let us turn from the mater- 
ial effects of the war to a more inter- 
esting side of the subject, the effects 
upon political opinion. I think that 
on this point, owing to the exceptional 
vividness and richness of our sources, 
quite a good deal can be made out. 
We have not only the direct narrative 
of Thucydides, who writes at first 
hand of what he has himself observed 
and felt, and several speeches of con- 
temporary orators, concerned with 
public or private suits. We have also 
the eleven Comedies of Aristophanes, 
representing the political opposition, 



30 Our Great War and the Great 

and treating of public affairs with un- 
usual freedom of speech and also, 
amid the wildest exaggerations, with 
a singularly acute perception of his 
opponent's point of view. The 
Greeks were not politicians and 
dramatists for nothing. 

The first simple fact to realize is 
that the war was a long, hard, and 
evenly balanced war. Consequently 
each side, as usual, thought its own 
successes much greater than they 
really were, though of course much 
less than they ought to be. They 
could not understand why, consider- 
ing their own moral and intellectual 
superiority to the enemy, they did not 
succeed sooner in completely crushing 



War of the A ncient Greeks 3 1 

t = 

them. There arose a demand for en- 
ergy, energy at any price, and then 
more energy. But why, even with en- 
ergy, did things continue to go wrong? 
The mob became hysterical. Evi- 
dently there was a hidden hand ; there 
were traitors in our midst! This was 
dreadful enough; but the fact that 
with the utmost vigilance it was im- 
possible to discover any traitors, made 
it infinitely exasperating. Athens 
swarmed with informers and false ac- 
cusers. The Old Comedy is full of 
hits at these public nuisances, and 
they have left their mark on the his- 
torians and even the non-political 
writers. References to contemporary 
affairs are extremely rare in Greek 



32 Our Great War and the Great 

tragedy, but Euripides in the lon^ 
written in 415, alludes passingly to 
Athens as "a city full of terror." 
{Ion 601.) 

In this state of things it became of 
course extremely difficult, if not dan- 
gerous, to work for Peace. Nicias no 
doubt wished for a peace on reason- 
able terms, to be followed by an alli- 
ance with Sparta and a loyal co-opera- 
tion between the two chief states of 
Greece. And there was, as far as we 
can see, no particular reason to regard 
Sparta as in any special sense an out- 
cast from Greek civilization, or con- 
genitally incapable of loyal action. 
But though all our authorities agree 
in praising both the character and 



War of the Ancient Greeks 33 

abilities of Nicias, there is a constant 
complaint of his slowness, his lack of 
dash, and his reluctance to face, or to 
encourage, the howls of the patriotic 
mob. When he was commander-in- 
chief, Plutarch tells us, he lost popu- 
larity by spending all his day work- 
ing at the Strategion, or War Office, 
and then going straight home, instead 
of making himself agreeable to the 
orators and disseminators of news, or 
making speeches to "ginger" the As- 
sembly. 

As an offset to this rather gloomy 
picture, it is worth noting that Athen- 
ian civilization was hard to destroy. 
There were very few executions of 
citizens and no judicial murders even 



34 Our Great War and the Great 

when passions ran most fiercely. And 
pari passu there were no assassina- 
tions. And though Aristophanes and 
the other Comedians speak a good deal 
of the danger they run in attacking 
Cleon, they seem to have exercised 
during the first ten years or so of the 
war a degree of freedom of speech 
which is almost without a parallel in 
history. If you can with impunity, in 
public, refer to the leading statesman 
of the day as "a whale that keeps a 
public-house and has a voice like a pig 
on fire," you are somewhat debarred 
from denouncing the rigours of the 
censorship. {Wasps'^^^.) In other 
Greek states, of which Corcyra is the 
standing example, there were civil 



War of the Ancient Greeks 35 

wars, political proscriptions, and mas- 
sacres. But it took a long time even 
for a war so deep-rooted and corrupt- 
ing as the Peloponnesian to destroy 
the high civilization that had been 
built up in the Athens of Pericles. 
The only really atrocious acts which 
can be laid to the account of the war 
party at Athens are acts of ferocity to 
enemies or quasi-enemies, like the 
treatment of Megara and Melos ; mon- 
strous severity to those parts of the 
Empire which showed disloyalty dur- 
ing the war, like the massacres of 
Mitylene and Skione ; and thirdly, un- 
less I am mistaken, a pretty constant 
practice of harsh and unscrupulous 
exploitation of subject-allies, which 



36 Our Great War and the Great 

at times amounted to absolute tyranny 
and extortion. 



VI 



After these general considerations, 
let us proceed to reconstruct the def- 
inite political criticism passed by the 
moderates or ''pacifists" on the gov- 
ernment of Cleon. Of course such re- 
construction is not quite easy. The 
criticism is hardly ever both directly 
and seriously expressed. In Thucy- 
dides it is serious but seldom direct; 
it has mostly to be gathered from im- 
plications. In the orators it is allusive 
and powerfully affected by the neces- 
sities of the particular cause which the 



War of the Ancient Greeks 37 

speaker is pleading. In Aristophanes 
it is abundant and in one sense direct 
enough to satisfy the most exacting 
critic; but it is confused first by the 
wild and farcical atmosphere of the 
Old Comedy, which attains its end 
sometimes by exaggeration and some- 
times, on the contrary, by paradox; I 
mean, by representing a public man 
in a character exactly the opposite to 
that for which he is notorious; and 
secondly, a point which is apt to be 
forgotten, by the subtle tact with 
which the poet has always to be hand- 
ling his audience. To allow for these 
distorting media is not a question of 
scientific method; it is a question of 
familiarity with the subject and the 



38 Our Great War and the Great 

language, of humour and of common 
sense. And it follows that one's in- 
terpretation can never be absolutely 
certain. 

However, to take first the attitude 
of the Opposition towards the enemy. 
It is plain enough how the average 
Athenian citizen under the influence 
of war-fever regarded him. It was 
folly to speak of ever making any 
treaty with a Spartan, "who was no 
more to be trusted than a hungry wolf 
with its mouth open." (Lysistrata 
629.) The Spartans are to blame for 
everything, everything that has gone 
wrong; they are creatures ''for whom 
there exists no altar and no honour 
and no oath!" (Acharnians 308, 



War of the Ancient Greeks 39 

311.) The clergy, that is to say, the 
prophets and oracle-dealers, are rep- 
resented in Greek Comedy, just as 
they are later by Erasmus and Vol- 
taire, as more ferocious in their war- 
passions than the average layman. For 
example, in the Peace^ when that 
buried goddess has been recovered 
from the bowels of the earth and all 
the nations are rejoicing, the sooth- 
sayer Hierocles comes to interrupt the 
peace-libations with his oracles: "O 
miserable creatures and blind, not 
knowing the mind of the gods! Be- 
hold, men have made covenants with 
angry-eyed apes. Trembling gulls 
have put their trust in the children of 
foxes." And again, "Behold, it is not 



40 Our Great War and the Great 

the pleasure of the blessed gods that 
ye cease from war until the wolf weds 
the lamb." Again, "Never shall ye 
make the crab walk straight; never 
shall ye make the sea-urchin smooth." 
{Feace 1049-1120.) 

These prophets are never sympa- 
thetically treated by Aristophanes. 
Sometimes they are simply kicked or 
beaten at sight. Sometimes they are 
argued with, as in this scene. 
"Are we never to stop fighting?" asks 
the hero of the play. "Are we to draw 
lots for which goes to the Devil deep- 
est, when we might simply make peace 
and together be the leaders of Hel- 
las?" And a little later he retorts on 
the oracles which Hierocles quotes 



War of the Ancient Greeks 41 

from the prophet Bakis with a better 
oracle from Homer: "Without kin- 
dred or law or hearthstone is the man 
who loves war among his people." 
(Peace 1096 ff.) 

In the Acharnians the hero deliber- 
ately undertakes to argue that the 
Spartans — whom he duly hates, and 
hopes that an earthquake may destroy 
them, for he too has had his vineyard 
ravaged — were, after all, not to blame 
in everything; on the contrary, they 
have in some points been treated un- 
justly. It is a bold undertaking. In 
very few great wars can it have been 
possible for a man on the public stage 
to argue such a thesis on behalf of the 
enemy; and Dicaeopolis has to do it 



42 Our Great War and the Great 



with a block ready for cutting his head 
off if he does not prove his point. His 
argument is that the cause of the war 
was the Athenian's tariff-war against 
Megara — a small Dorian state under 
the protection of Sparta. There was 
a deliberately injurious tariff against 
Megarian goods; and then, instead of 
letting the tariff work in the casual 
happy-go-lucky way that was usual in 
antiquity, "a lot of wicked little 
pinch-beck creatures, degraded, falsely 
stamped and falsely born," made a 
trade of informing against Megarian 
woollen goods. And if ever they saw 
a pumpkin or a hare or a young pig or 
a head of garlic or some stray lumps 
of salt, "that's from Megara I" they 



War of the Ancient Greeks 43 

shouted, and it was confiscated before 
nightfall. This led naturally enough 
to troubles on the frontier. Drunken 
young Athenians began making out- 
rages across the Megarian border — the 
current form of outrage was to carry 
off a female slave; angry young Me- 
garians made reprisals, till 



At last in wrath the Olympian Pericles 
Broke into thunder, lightning and damnation 
On Greece; passed laws written like drinking- 
songs, 
That no Megarian by land or sea 
Or sky or market should be left alive! 



(The allusion is to a drinking-song be- 
ginning "would that not by land or 
sea," etc.) The Megarians were re- 



44 Oz/r Great War and the Great 

duced to starvation ; Sparta, interven- 
ing, made a petition on behalf of Me- 
gara to have the decree rescinded. 
They pleaded many times and Athens 
refused ; and then came the rattling of 
shields. " 'They ought not to have rat- 
tled their shields,' you say^ 'Well, 
what ought they to have done? Sup- 
pose a Spartan had sailed out in a 
skiif and confiscated a puppy-dog be- 
longing to the smallest islander in 
your League, would you have sat still? 
God bless us, no. In a moment you 
would have had three hundred ships of 
war on the water/ " and so on, and so 
on. 

The Chorus who listen to this bold 
pleading are shaken by it. Half go 



War of the Ancient Greeks 45 

with the speaker, and half not. 
(Acharnians 496-561.) 

Much the same account is given a 
few years later in the Peace (Peace 
603-656) : The hostile tariff against 
Megara was the first cause of the war ; 
but the speaker here is more interested 
in what happened after. "Your de- 
pendencies, or subject-allies," he says, 
*'saw that you and the Spartans were 
snarling at each other; so, in fear of 
the tribute you made them pay, they 
moved heaven and earth to induce the 
chief men in Sparta to fight for their 
independence. And they, like the cov- 
etous curs and deceivers of strangers 
that they are, drove Peace with shame 
out of the world and grabbed at war." 



46 Our Great War and the Great 

He goes on to show how most of the 
suffering fell on the tillers of the soil. 
I will not discuss the truth of this 
account further than to observe that 
to my mind the only question is a ques- 
tion of proportion. The cruel tariff - 
war against Megara is a vera causa. 
It did exist, and it did act, as such 
tyrannies always act, as a cause of 
war. But how much weight it should 
be given among all the other causes 
is a question it would be futile at 
present to discuss. The object of 
Pericles' policy was, as far as we can 
judge, to compel Megara by sheer co- 
ercion to join the Athenian alliance, 
to which it seemed naturally to be- 
long by geography and commercial in- 



War of the Ancient Greeks 47 

terest, and give up the Spartan alli- 
ance, to which it belonged by race and 
sympathy. 

VII 

The next point at issue between 
Aristophanes and Cleon is an interest- 
ing one. It is the treatment of the de- 
pendencies. Athens was the head of 
a great league, originally formed for 
defence against the Persians, and con- 
sisting chiefly of the Ionian islands 
and maritime states which had been 
under the Persian yoke. This league 
of equals had gradually transformed 
itself into an Empire, in which Ath- 
ens provided most of the military and 



48 Our Great War and the Great 

naval force and dictated the foreign 
policy, while the dependencies paid 
tribute for their protection. 

These Ionian cities had been out- 
stripped in power and wealth by Ath- 
ens and the larger commercial units. 
But they had a tradition of ancient 
culture and refinement. Their lan- 
guage was still the authorized dialect 
of poetry and the higher prose. And, 
though most of them were now demo- 
cratically governed, their old families 
had still much influence and wealth. 
Aristophanes, like Sophocles and other 
Athenian writers, had strong links of 
sympathy with Ionia. His policy 
would doubtless have been that of 
Aristides, whose arrangement of the 



War of the Ancient Greeks 49 

tribute payable by the dependencies 
was accepted as a model of justice. 
The democratic war party took just 
the opposite view. There were rem- 
nants of the old aristocratic families 
still in the islands; they must be 
taught a lesson. There was money: 
it must be extorted to provide pay for 
the Athenian populace. There was 
secret disaffection: it must be rooted 
out. There was occasionally an open 
rebellion : it must be met by wholesale 
executions. The islanders were all 
traitors at heart, and the worst they 
got was better than their deserts ! 

In the year 426, just before the 
earliest of his comedies that has come 
down to us entire, Aristophanes pro- 



50 Our Great War and the Great 

duced a play of extraordinary daring, 
called the J5^^j/^;??<2^2J", in which he rep- 
resented all the dependencies as slaves 
on a treadmill, watched by a flogging 
gaoler called Demos. One fragment 
describes soldiers demanding billets. 
Another shows some extortioner say- 
ing, "We need 200 drachmae." "How 
am I to get them^" asks the unhappy 
islander. "In this quart pot!" is the 
answer. There is mention of some 
soldier ordering a yoke of plough-oxen 
to be killed because he wanted beef. 
To make the insult to the Athenian 
Government greater, the play was 
produced at the Great Dionysia, in the 
summer, when visitors from the Ionian 
cities were present in large numbers 



War of the Ancient Greeks 51 

in Athens. One can imagine their 
passionate delight at finding such a 
champion. 

It was a little too much. Cleon 
brought a series of prosecutions 
against the poet, who remarks in a sub- 
sequent play {Acharnians 377 ff.) : 



And how Cleon made me pay — 
I've not forgotten — for my last year's play ! 
Dragged me before the Council, brought his spies 
To slander me, gargled his throat with lies, 
Niagaraed me and slooshed me, till — almost — 
With so much sewage I gave up the ghost ! 



His spirit was not quenched, however. 
His next play, the Acharnians^ was a 
definite plea for Peace, and his next, 
the Knights^ a perfectly exuberant and 



52 Our Great War and the Great 

uncompromising attack on Cleon, now 
at the very height of his power. 

It is noteworthy that in the Knights 
there is clear evidence of the terror 
that Cleon inspired. The character 
who represents him was not made up 
to look like him, and was not called 
by his name — at least not till the play 
was more than half finished, and it 
was clear how the audience would take 
it. Furthermore, though I think the 
most burning cause of quarrel that 
Aristophanes had against Cleon was 
his treatment of the dependencies, or 
allies, these are not once mentioned 
by name till the last word of the last 
line of the play, when Cleon is re- 
moved from office and borne off to pur- 



War of the Ancient Greeks 53 

sue his true vocation of selling cat's 
meat at the city gates, and exchang- 
ing "billingsgate" with the fish-sellers 
and prostitutes. 

Carry him high 
That those he wronged may see him, our alHes! 

There are plenty of general refer- 
ences to extortion, however. Cleon 
stands on the Council rock watching 
the sea, like the look-out man watch- 
ing for herrings or tunnies, ready to 
harpoon the tribute as it comes. (313.) 
He knows all the rich and harmless 
men who have held any office and are 
consequently open to prosecution and 
blackmail. (260 ff.) He saves money 



54 Our Great Wa r and the Great 

by not paying the sailors, but letting 
them live on the islanders instead. 
(Knights I366f.; Acharnians 161- 
163.) In any strait he demands war- 
ships for collecting arrears — there 
were probably always arrears of trib- 
ute due from some place or other — 
and sends them out to collect — with 
no questions asked. (1070-1078.) 
An informer in another play, the 
Birds, mentions with glee his own 
method, which is to go to an island and 
summon a rich islander to trial in 
Athens. Then, in the scarcity of ships, 
the islander cannot get a passage, 
while the informer is allowed to go in 
a man-of-war. The trial is brought on 



War of the Ancient Greeks 55 

at once and the islander condemned in 
his absence. (Birds 1410-1468.) 

VIII 

Cleon's defence of his own policy is 
illuminating. The war meant vast 
expenditure and crippled production. 
The country population were driven 
for safety into the towns and ceased 
to produce wealth, while of course 
they had to be fed. Wealth and food 
must be got from somewhere, and 
Cleon undertook to get it. "When I 
was on the Council, O Demos,'* he 
says, *'I produced a huge balance in 
the treasury. I racked these men and 
squeezed those and blackmailed the 



56 Our Great War and the Great 

others. I cared not a jot for any pri- 
vate person as long as I could make 
you happy." As Lysias, the respect- 
able democratic orator, puts it, 
*'When the Council has sufficient rev- 
enue it commits no offences ; but when 
it is in difficulties it is compelled to 
accept impeachments and confisca- 
tions of property, and to follow the 
proposals of the most unprincipled 
speakers." {Lysias 30, 22.) Of 
course the art of popular extortion 
lies in choosing your victims. Rich 
lonians could be robbed without the 
Athenian mob turning a hair; and 
when that supply failed it was fairly 
safe to attack rich Athenians suspected 
of "moderatism." "What will you do," 



War of the Ancient Greeks 57 

asks the Sausage-monger of the re- 
formed and converted Demos at the 
end of the Knights^ "if some low law- 
yer argues to the jury that there will 
be no food for them unless they find 
the defendant guilty?" "Lift him up 
and fling him into the Pit," cries the in- 
dignant Demos, "with the fattest of 
the informers as a millstone round his 
neck." {Knights 1358-1363.) Such 
arguments were heard in the French 
Revolution, and are mentioned also 
by Lysias (27, 1). 

Cleon's policy was to win, to win 
completely, at any cost and by any 
means. And, as in the French Revo- 
lution, such a policy became more and 
more repulsive to decent men. Nic- 



58 Our Great War and the Great 

ias, the leader of Cleon's opponents, 
wanted a Peace of Reconciliation, but 
he seldom faced the Assembly. He 
was a good soldier, a good organizer, 
a skilful engineer; he devoted himself 
to his military work and increasingly 
stood out from politics. Our wit- 
nesses are unanimous in saying that 
from the time of Pericles onward there 
was a rapid and progressive deteriora- 
tion in the class of man who acquired 
ascendancy in Athens. In part no 
doubt this alleged deterioration 
merely represented a change in social 
class ; the traders or business men, the 
"mongers" as Aristophanes derisively 
calls them, came to the front in place 
of the landed classes and the families 



War of the Ancient Greeks 59 

of ancient culture. But I hardly see 
how we can doubt that there really 
was a moral and spiritual degradation 
as well, from Pericles and Cimon to 
Hyperbolus and his successors. 

The locus classicus is, of course, the 
scene in the Knights where the Saus- 
age-man or OfFal-monger is introduced 
as the only passable rival for Cleon, 
the tanner or Leather-monger. In 
this scene the Paphlagonian slave, i.e., 
Cleon, has fallen asleep, and two of 
his fellow-slaves, representing Cleon's 
honest and disgraced rivals, Nicias 
and Demosthenes, succeed in stealing 
a book of oracles which he keeps under 
his pillow. 

The thousand-year-old-jests may 



6o Our Great War and the Great 

strike us as sometimes coarse and some- 
times frigid; and my translation is a 
rough one. But there is a passion in 
the scene that keeps it alive and sig- 
nificant. Demosthenes, I should ex- 
plain, is a little drunk from the start. 
{Knights 125-225.) 

Demosthenes. You gory Paphlagonian, you 
did well 
To keep this close ! You feared the oracle 
About yourself. 

NiciAS. About himself? Eh, what? 

Demosthenes. It's written here, man, how 

he goes to pot. 
NiciAS. How? 

Demosthenes. How ? This book quite plain- 
ly prophesies 
How first a Rope-monger must needs arise 
The fortunes of all Athens to control. . . . 
NiciAS. Monger the first! What follows in 
the roll? 



War of the Ancient Greeks 61 

Demosthenes. A Mutton-monger next our 

lord shall be. . . . 
NiciAS. Monger the second ! What's his des- 
tiny? 
Demosthenes. To reign in pride until some 
dirtier soul 
Rise than himself. That hour his knell shall toll. 
For close behind a Leather-monger steals, 
— Our Paphlagonian — snarling at his heels, 
Niagara in his lungs, a beast of prey. 
NiciAS. The Mutton-monger runs, and fades 
away 
Before him? 

Demosthenes. Yes. 

NiciAS. And that's the end? The 

store 
Is finished? Oh, for just one monger more! 
Demosthenes. There is one more, and one 

you'd never guess. 
NiciAS. There is! What is he? 
Demosthenes. Shall I tell you ? 

NiciAS. Yes ! 

Demosthenes. His fall is by an OfTal- 
monger made. 



62 Our Great War and the Great 

NiciAS. An Offal-monger? Glory, what a 
trade! . . . 
Up, and to work ! That monger must be found ! 
Demosthenes. We'll seek him out. [They 
proceed to go seeking, when they see a 
man with a pie-man's tray hanging round 
his neck, selling offal.] 
NiciAS, See ! On this very ground, 

By Providence! 

Demosthenes. O blessing without end, 
O Offal-monger, friend and more than friend ! 
To us, to Athens, saviour evermore ! . . . 
This way! 

Offal-monger. What's up? What are you 

shouting for? 
Demosthenes. Come here: come forward, 
and be taught by me 
Your splendid fate, your rich felicity ! 

NiciAS. Here ! Take his tray off ! Pour into 
his head 
The blessed oracles and all they have said. 
I'll go and keep my eye on Paphlagon. 

[Exit NiciAS.] 
Demosthenes. Come, my good man, put all 
these gadgets down. 



War of the Ancient Greeks 63 

Kiss Earth thy Mother and the gods adore. 
Offal-monger. There. What's it all about? 
Demosthenes. O blest and more ! 

Now nothing but to-morrow, Lord of All ! 
O Prince of Athens the majestical . . . 

Offal-monger. Look here, gents, can't you 
let me wash my stuff 
And sell the puddings? I've had mor'n enough. 
Demosthenes. Puddings, deluded being? 
Just look up. 
You see those rows and rows of people? 
Offal-monger. Yup. 

Demosthenes. You are their Lord and Mas- 
ter! You, heaven-sent. 
To people, market, harbour, parliament, 
To kick the Council, break the High Command, 
Send men to gaol, get drunk in the Grand 
Stand. . . . 
Offal-monger. Not me? 
Demosthenes. Yes — and you don't 

yet see it — ^you! 
Get up on . . . here, your own old tray will do. 
See all the islands dotted round the scene? 
Offal-monger. Yes. 



64 Our Great War and the Great 

Demosthenes. The great ports, the mer- 

cantile marine? 
Offal-monger. Yes. 

Demosthenes. Yes ! And then the man 

denies he's blest ! 
Now cast one eye towards Carthage in the west, 
One round to Caria — take the whole imprint. 
Offal-monger. Shall I be any happier with 

a squint? 
Demosthenes. Tut, tut, man ! All you see is 
yours to sell. 
You shall become, so all the stars foretell, 
A great, great man. 

Offal-monger. But do explain : how can 

A poor little Offal-monger be a man? 

Demosthenes. That's just the reason why 
you are bound to grow. 
Because you are street-bred, brazen-faced and 
low. 
Offal-monger. You know, I don't know 

quite as I deserve . . . 
Demosthenes. You don't know quite ? What 
means this shaken nerve? 



War of the Ancient Greeks 65 

Some secret virtue? No? — Don't say you came 
Of honest parents! 

Offal-monger. Honest? Lord, not them! 
Both pretty queer! 

Demosthenes. Oh, happy man and wife! 
To start your son so well for public life. 

Offal-monger. Just think of the eddication I 
ain't had, 
Bar letters : and I mostly learnt them bad ! 

Demosthenes. The pity is you learnt such 
things at all. 
'Tis not for learning now the people call, 
Nor thoughtfulness, nor men of generous make. 
'Tis brute beasts without conscience. Come and 

take 
The prize that gods and prophets offer you. 

Offal-monger. Of course I like them. But 
I can't see yet 
How ever I shall learn to rule a state. 

Demosthenes. Easy as lying! Do as now 
you do, 
Turn every question to a public stew; 
Hash things, and cook things. Win the common 
herd 



66 Our Great War and the Great 

By sweet strong sauces in your every word. 
For other gifts, you have half the catalogue 
Already, for the perfect demagogue, 
A blood-shot voice, low breeding, huckster's 

tricks — 
What more can man require for politics ? 
The prophets and Apollo's word concur. 
Up! To all Sleeping Snakes libation pour, 
And crown your brow, and fight him! 

Offal-monger. Who will fight 

Beside me ? All the rich are in a fright 
Before him, and the poor folk of the town 
Turn green and vomit if they see him frown. 



You feel the tone. The bitter con- 
tempt, in part the contempt of the 
beaten aristocrat for the conquering 
plebian, of the partisan for his op- 
ponent, of the educated man for the 
uneducated, but in part, I think, 
genuinely the contempt of the man 



War of the Ancient Greeks 67 

of honest traditions in manners and 
morals for the self-seeker with no tra- 
ditions at all. It recurs again and 
again, in all mentions of Cleon and 
his successor Hyperbolus, or their flat- 
terers and hangers-on; priests and 
prophets, shirkers of military service, 
rich profiteers with a pull on the gov- 
ernment, and above all of course the 
informers, or false-accusers. 

The informers rose into prominence 
for several causes. First, the war- 
fever and the spy-mania of the time; 
next, the general exasperation of 
nerves, leading to quarrels and litiga- 
tion ; next, the general poverty and the 
difficulty of earning a living. An in- 
former if he won his case received a 



68 Our Great War and the Great 

large percentage of the penalty im- 
posed. By the time of the Birds (414 
B. C.) and the Ecclesiazusae (389 
B. C.) Aristophanes implies jestingly 
that it was the only way left of mak- 
ing a living, and every one was in it. 
(Ecclesiazusae 562.) In the Plutus 
an informer bursts into tears because, 
in the New World introduced by the 
denouement of that play, a good man 
and a patriot, like himself, is reduced 
to suffering. "You a good man and 
a patriot *?" "If ever there was one." 
. . . "Are you a tiller of the soil?" 
"Do you think I am mad*?" "A mer- 
chant*?" "H'm, that is how I describe 
myself when I have to sign a paper." 
"Have you learnt any profession?" 



War of the Ancient Greeks 69 

''Rather not." "Then how do you 
live?" '1 am a general supervisor of 
the affairs of the City and of all pri- 
vate persons." "What is your quali- 
fication?" "I like it." The informer 
scores a point later on. "Can't you 
leave these trials and accusations to 
the proper officials?" they say to him. 
"The City appoints paid judges to set- 
tle these things." "And who brings 
the accusation?" says the informer. 
"Any one who likes." "Just so. I am 
the person who likes." (Flutus 901- 
919.) 

In the Acharnians (860-950) when 
the Boeotian farmer comes to market 
with his abundance of good things, 
there arises a difficulty about any ex- 



70 Our Great War and the Great 

port adequate to repay such imports. 
He wants something that is abundant 
in Athens but scarce in Boeotia. Fish 
and pottery are suggested, but do not 
satisfy him: when the brilliant idea 
occurs, Give him a live informer! At 
this moment an informer enters; his 
name by the way is Nikarchos, "Beat- 
the-Government" — a name formed 
like Nikoboulos, "Beat-the-Councir' 
— and suggests that if Cleon on the 
whole encouraged and utilized the 
false accusers for the purpose of keep- 
ing his rivals out of power, they were 
sometimes too strong for him himself. 
"He is rather small," says the Boeotian 
doubtfully. "But every inch of him 
bad," is the comforting retort. 



War of the A ncient Greeks 7 1 

Nicarchus immediately denounces the 
Boeotian wares as contraband, and 
finding lamp-wicks among them de- 
tects a pro-Spartan plot for setting the 
docks on fire. He is still speaking 
when he is seized from behind, tied 
with ropes, wrapped carefully in mat- 
ting wrong side up, so as not to 
break — and carried off. 

IX 

Besides the crvKo<j>dvTaL and black- 
mailers, we hear a good deal about 
KoXaK€<s, or flatterers of those in power, 
and a good deal about profiteers. 
There are the Ambassadors and peo- 
ple on government missions with 



V 



72 Our Great War and the Great 

their handsome maintenances allow- 
ance, young officers with "cushy jobs" 
(Acharnians 61-90, 135-137, 595- 
619), the people who profit by confis- 
cations (Wasps 663-718), the various 
trades that gain by war {Peace 1210- 
1255) : the armourers, crest-makers, 
helmet-makers, trumpet-makers ; the 
prophets and priests, who gain by the 
boom in superstition; the geometers 
or surveyors, who survey annexed ter- 
ritory (Birds 960-1020), together 
with other colonially-minded profi- 
teers. In the Peace, when that god- 
dess is discovered buried out of human 
sight in a deep pit, all the Greeks start 
to drag her out, but some hinder more 
than help. There are soldiers who 



War of the Ancient Greeks 73 

want promotion, politicians who 
want to be generals, slaves who want 
to desert, and of course there are mu- 
nition-workers. As the work goes on 
it appears that the Boeotians, who have 
plenty to eat, are not pulling; the 
jingo General, Lamachus, is not pull- 
ing; the Argives, being neutral, have 
never pulled at all; they only grinned 
and got food from both sides ; and the 
unhappy Megarians, though they are 
doing their best, are too weak with 
famine to have any effect. Eventu- 
ally all these people are warned off; 
so are the chief combatants, the Spar- 
tans and the Athenians, because they 
do nothing but quarrel and make ac- 
cusations against each other. Only 



74 Our Great War and the Great 

the tillers of the soil are left to pull, 
the peasants and farmers of all na- 
tions alike. They are not politicians, 
and they know what it is to suffer. 
(Peace 441-510.) So the goddess is 
hoisted up, and the various cities, in 
spite of their wounds and bandages 
and black eyes and crutches, fall to 
dancing and laughing together for 
very joy. 

It is a permanent count against 
Cleon that he has repeatedly refused 
Peace. "Archeptolemus brought us 
Peace, and you split it on the ground. 
You insulted every embassy from 
every city that invited us to treat, and 
kicked them out of town." (Knights 
795 ff.) "And why?" answers Cleon. 



War of the Ancient Greeks 75 

"Because I mean to give the Athenian 
Demos universal Empire over Hel- 
las." "Bosh," answers the Sausage- 
man: "it is because the whole atmos- 
phere of war suits you ! The general 
darkness and ignorance, the absence 
of financial control, the nervous ter- 
ror of the populace, and even their 
very poverty and hunger, which make 
them more and more dependent on 
you. 

In the Peace, the god Hermes makes 
a speech to the Athenians. "When- 
ever the Spartans had a slight advan- 
tage," he says (211 ff.) , "it was 'Now, 
by God, we've got the little Attic 
beasts on the run!' And when you 
Athenians had the best of it and the 



76 Our Great War and the Great 

Spartans came with Peace proposals, 
'It is a cheat/ you cried. 'Don't 
trust a word they say. They'll come 
again later, if we stick to our gains.' " 
"I recognize the style," says the 
Athenian who listens. No one in 
Athens dared to propose Peace. In a 
whimsical scene at the opening of the 
Acharnians an Archangel or Demi-god 
walks into the Assembly explaining 
that he is an Immortal Being, but the 
authorities will not give him a pass- 
port. "Why does he want one?" 
*'The gods have commissioned him to 
go to Sparta and make Peace." Im- 
mediately there is a cry for the Police, 
and the Archangel is taught that there 
are certain subjects that even an im- 



War of the Ancient Greeks 77 

mortal must not meddle with. {A char- 
mans 45-54.) And yet if Peace is 
not made — one would imagine that 
one heard the voice of a present-day 
Moderate speaking — it means the de- 
struction not of Athens or Sparta alone 
but of all Hellas. God is sweeping 
Hellas with the broom of destruction. 
(Peace 59.) The devil of War has 
the cities in a mortar and is only look- 
ing for a pestle to pound them into 
dust. (Peace 228-287.) By good 
luck it happens that the Athenian pes- 
tle is just broken — Cleon killed in 
Thrace — and when War looks for the 
Spartan pestle it is lost too — Brasi- 
das, the Spartan general, also killed. 
So comes the chance for Peace, and for 



78 Our Great War and the Great 

the policy of Nicias , which comprised 
an alliance between Athens and 
Sparta and a pan-hellenic patriotism. 
It is noticeable in the Knights that the 
pacifist Offal-monger retorts on Cleon 
the accusation of not possessing an 
"imperial mind." Cleon, in his war- 
hysteria, is for making Athens a mean 
city; making it hated by the allies, 
hated by the rest of Hellas, thriving 
on the misfortunes of others, and full 
of hatred against a great part — not to 
say the best part — of its own citizens. 
(Knights Siyf.) And when Cleon 
finally falls the cry is raised "Hellanie 
Zeul — Zeus of all Hellas — thine is 
the prize of victory I" The Offal- 



War of the Ancient Greeks 79 

monger, like Aristophanes himself, 
was "a good European." 



X 



The Peace of Nicias failed. The 
impetus of the war was too great. 
The natural drift of affairs was in 
Cleon's direction, and the farther 
Athens was carried the harder it be- 
came for any human wisdom or au- 
thority to check the rush of the infuri- 
ated herd. And since Nicias was too 
moderate and high-minded and law- 
abiding to fight Cleon with his own 
weapons, he lost hold on the more ex- 
treme spirits of his own party ; so that 
at the end of the war the informers had 



8o Our Great War and the Great 

created the very thing they had 
dreamed about and had turned their 
own lies into truth. There was at 
last an actual pro-Spartan group; 
there were real secret societies, real 
conspiracies; and a party that was 
ready to join hands with the enemy in 
order to be delivered from the cor- 
rupted and war-maddened mob that 
governed them. 

One is tempted in a case like this 
to pass no judgement on men or poli- 
cies, but merely record the actual 
course of history and try to under- 
stand the conflicting policies and 
ideals; instead of judgement, taking 
refuge in the lacrimae rerum — the 
eternal pity that springs from the eter- 



War of the Ancient Greeks 81 

nal tragedy of human endeavour. 
When the soldiers of Nicias in Sicily, 
mad with thirst, pressed on to drink 
the water, thick with blood and mire, 
of the little stream where the enemy 
archers shot them down at leisure, it 
was not only an army that perished 
but a nation, and a nation that held 
the hopes of the world. When we read 
that immortal praise of Athens which 
our historian puts into the mouth of 
Pericles, the city of law and freedom, 
of simplicity and beauty, the beloved 
city in whose service men live and die 
rejoicing as a lover in his mistress, we 
should notice that the words are 
spoken in a Funeral Speech. The 
thing so praised, so beloved, is dead; 



82 Our Great War and the Great 

and the haunting beauty of the words 
is in part merely the well-known magic 
of memory and of longing. For Thucy- 
dides the dream of a regenerated life 
for mankind has vanished out of the 
future, and he rebuilds it in his mem- 
ory of the past. The Peloponnesian 
War had ended wrong; and whatever 
the end might have been, it had al- 
ready wrecked Hellas. 



XI 



Our war has at least ended right: 
and, one may hope, not too late for the 
recovery of civilization. In spite of the 
vast material destruction, in spite of 
the blottng out from the book of life 



War of the Ancient Greeks 83 

of practically one whole generation of 
men, in spite of the unmeasured mis- 
ery which has reigned and reigns still 
over the greater part of Europe, in 
spite of the gigantic difficulties of the 
task before us; in spite of the great 
war-harvest of evil and the exhaustion 
of brain and spirit in most of the vic- 
torious nations as well as in the van- 
quished, our war has ended right; and"^ 
we have such an opportunity as no I 
generation of mankind has ever had / 
of building out of these ruins a better I 
international life and concomitantly a 
better life within each nation. I know 
not which thought is the more solemn, 
the more awful in its responsibility: 
the thought of the sacrifice we surviv- 



84 Our Great War and the Great 

ors have asked or exacted from our fel- 
low-men; or the thought of the task 
that now lies upon us if we are not to 
make that sacrifice a crime and a 
mockery. Blood and tears to which 
we had some right, for we loved those 
who suffered and they loved us; blood 
and tears to which we had no right, 
for those who suffered knew nothing 
of us, nor we of them; misery of the 
innocent beyond measure or under- 
standing and hitherto without recom- 
pense; that is the price that has been 
paid, and it lies on us, who live, to see 
to it that the price is not paid in vain. 
By some spirit of co-operaton instead 
of strife, by sobriety instead of mad- 
ness, by resolute sincerity in public 



War of the Ancient Greeks 85' 

and private things, and surely by 
some self-consecration to the great 
hope for which those who loved us 
gave their lives. 

"A City where rich and poor, man 
and woman, Athenian and Spartan, 
are all equal and all free; where there 
are no false accusers and where men" 
— or at least the souls of men — "have 
wings." That was the old dream that 
failed. Is it to fail always and for 
ever? 

November 'J ^ 1918. 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY 



DF Murray, Gilbert 1866-1957 
229 Our great war and the great 

.1 war of the ancient Greeks 

M8 (1920) T. Seltzer 

1920 



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